Gabriella Genisi (b. Bari, 1965) is a writer, a literary promoter and an enthusiast of food and art. She first received critical acclaim in 2009 for her politically inspired novel Il pesce rosso non abita più qui (The Red Fish Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) (La Fenice). After switching her focus from politics to crime, she is receiving the attention of critics and television executives alike for her smart and sexy police inspector, Lolita Lobosco, who has appeared in two deliciously intriguing mysteries La circonferenza delle arance (The Circumference of Oranges) (Sonzogno, 2010) and Giallo ciliegia (Cherry Mystery) (Sonzogno, 2011). I recently interviewed Genisi about her apparent fixation with fruit, the fabulous Lolita and the lively language that colors her writing with vibrant shades of Southern Italy.
In Giallo ciliegia (Cherry Mystery), as La circonferenza delle arance (The Circumference of Oranges), fruit plays a central role. What does fruit represent to you?
I live a few kilometers from Bari, in Southern Italy. Here fruit signifies sun and home. On the tables in our kitchens there is always a fruit bowl overflowing with oranges, mandarin oranges, grapes, cherries.
You describe Inspector Lolita Lobosco as “a Southern woman in full relief.” But in what ways is she a Barese woman?
The Barese women are pragmatic and typically not very romantic. They love beauty in all forms, and they have an innate sensuality, forever imprinted in their DNA.
Lolita was born in homage to the celebrated Camillerian character, Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Did she take any linguistic cues from Montalbano (apart from the occasional Sicilian word)?
I drew a lot of inspiration from Montalbano in the construction of the character but also in the use of a spoken, colloquial language marked by dialectal incursions.
The language of Giallo ciliegia is rich with local nuances. How do you define the relationship between dialect and Italian?
Here in the South there is an enormous richness of dialects. All you have to do is go a few kilometers and the accents, intonations, and open and close vowels change. It’s used very often in the private realm, but it’s almost never pure. It’s always mixed with Italian in a sweet and very intimate hybrid.
Next year RAI will air the TV version of Giallo ciliega. Will the language of Bari be preserved in the screenplay?
I think the accent and some linguistic nuances will be saved to depict the characters.
You’re one of the organizers of an important literary festival “il libro possible (the possible book)” in Italy. What is the scope of this festival? And can you give us any information about this year’s program?
Libro possibile will take place from July 11th through the 14th, 2012 in the splendid framework of Polignano a mare, Italy, the birthplace of Domenico Modugno and of Pino Pascali. The program is still in the planning stage but it will be rich with national and international guests. Our objective is the diffusion of literature, beyond the promotion of our territory.
This month a new investigation with Inspector Lolì is coming out called Uva Noir (Black/Noir Grape). How did you choose this marvelous title?
The grape is a typical product of Puglia, and is one of the products that is most exported abroad, and that produced the extremely prized Pugliese wines, appreciated throughout the world (Negramaro, Salice Salentino, Nero di Troia, Primitivo, etc.). The black variety seemed perfect to me for the noir echoes of my new book.
Note: If you’d like to learn more about Gabriella Genisi and her fantastic books, I urge you to take a look at her Facebook page, which is every bit as welcoming as the author herself. And don’t miss my post on Giallo ciliegia. This book is juicy, and I’m not talking about the abundant references to fruit!